The effort to recall San Francisco School Board President Gabriela Lopez, and members Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga, has grown in the last few weeks as the number of voters in favor of their recall continues to reach unprecedented levels – this despite the board members’ efforts to stop voters from signing the recall petition.
A growing number of San Francisco Unified School District parents are upset with the school board since the lockdown was in place. The SFUSD refusing to reopen elementary schools and high schools despite other districts, such as Los Angeles, doing so when the pandemic waned, was cited as a major reason. The resulting rise of mental health issues among students, as well as learning loss, and monetary loss was impetus for parents to start the petition.
Follow-up incidents, such as a massive failed citywide school renaming program and the demotion of Collins following the reveal of past racist tweets, including a subsequent multi-million dollar lawsuit against the board, only drew more attention, as well as national and international attention, against them.
While Faauuga has actively defended himself, Lopez and Collins tried to not get involved, as staying silent was largely seen as their best option. But all that changed. In the past few weeks, a growing number of people have been signing the recall petition.
In San Francisco, 51,325 signatures are needed to set up a recall election for each candidate. As of last week, 58,000 signatures to recall were collected for Lopez and Collins each, while Moliga only has 55,000 signatures for his recall.
Recall organizers say that they’ll need about 70,000 signatures in total as a buffer against invalid ballots , meaning that Lopez and Collins ignoring the recall any longer may ultimately cause them to face a recall election.
At a serious risk of being recalled, both Collins and Lopez began to strike back recently, equating themselves with SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who is currently also facing a large recall effort. They each have said that all three are reactionary to outside events and don’t focus on the social change issues.
Lopez, Collins try to fight back late in the signature gathering process
“All of these recalls represent people who are coming in and they are changing things,” said Collins in a speech to the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club last week. “They are sharing power in different ways. Even though we all are in different roles, what’s the same is that we are actually trying to share power with communities that are traditionally marginalized. We can’t let people scare us. When I see certain people getting upset, I know I’m doing the right thing. If it’s people that have power and don’t want to share it, there’s people who want to make decisions without being inclusive, of course they are going to get upset.”
Lopez went several steps further, charging that those in support of the recall against her were doing it for racial, age, and gender-related reasons, as well as for generally not being informed.
“The people who are behind this don’t know us, they don’t know our work, they don’t know what we’ve been doing, they don’t know what we are dedicated to,” noted Lopez last week. “They hear what’s out there and they recognize this is an opportunity to bring down someone who is me.”
“From day one, the campaign was a campaign to get politics out of education,” said recall organizers Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj during the weekend. “What we saw consistently was a pattern where the school board leadership focused on a lot of political stunts and symbolic gestures like trying to rename schools, and doing that ultimately badly.”
“In our campaign, if we saw anyone doing anything [racist or sexist] in our Facebook group we would delete it immediately and kick people out.”
Political experts also noted that the recall effort has a genuine chance of succeeding, which would likely end the political careers of the board members facing recall.
“Both Lopez and Collins have looked at higher office before or have been rumored to be seeking higher office,” San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke told the Globe Monday. “Plus they really feel like they’ve been inline to what the residents want or need. But it’s becoming more obvious that they aren’t and voters just don’t trust them any more. Is it reactionary? Maybe a little, but all these issues can be backed up for months or even years. And focus on school renamings at a time when they refused to reopen [schools] was seen as a very poor choice. They may continue to fight hard now, but the way the signatures have been coming in, it’s looking more like a special election here.”
The ballot signature deadline is on September 7th. Results will be known sometime this fall.